The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Book of Devine

One of my prized possessions is the old trunk my father used in 1950's when he was in the military. Notice that it has his Social Security number stenciled right on it.

Obviously it dates back to a time when people were not so paranoid about identity theft, perhaps because those were the days when your Social Security number was only used for Social Security, and not as a pass-code to every database about you. In fact I wouldn't show you that picture except that my Dad has been dead and buried for years and is now beyond being robbed in the material world.

One of the many reasons I wish my Dad were alive is so I could ask him about an insignia on the trunk. With it's iron crosses it looks almost like some Nazi artifact, although my father never served in World War II nor was he ever stationed in Germany.

However, maybe it's a decal my Dad got from his father, who did serve in World War II and who did bring a lot of Nazi stuff back from Europe. My Grandfather served all over Europe but never saw a moment of combat, serving instead as one of the military cooks; a humble wartime calling but an essential one because, as my Grandfather used to say, "An army marches on its stomach."

My Grandfather was full of war stories, which unfortunately I've forgotten most of. It is a shame that when we are young we only half-listen to the tales of our elders, only to wish when we are older that we could rehear them, but the tellers have vanished into the realm beyond telling.

One story I remember that my Grandfather used to tell involved an Irish monk and his sacred mission regarding a book. At the end of the war all of Europe was flooded with refugees of various types, people who had been displaced by the war and who were now returning to their homes - if their homes even still existed.

My Grandfather said that one day driving in Germany he came upon an elderly Irish monk who was walking along the road, carrying an old book. He stopped his jeep and asked the monk where he was going. The monk replied that he was trying to return to Ireland, from which he had fled after his monastery had been bombed.

"What is that book you're carrying?" my Grandfather asked.

"It is the only thing I was able to save from the ruins of my monastery," the old monk explained. "It is a book of genealogy dating back to the fourteenth century."

My Grandfather asked to see the book, and then was shocked to read its title - The Book of Devine. In it was the listing of the name, birth, baptism, marriage and death dates of every member of the Devine family going back five hundred years! My Grandfather quickly showed the old monk his dog tags.

"Look!" he cried," My name is Devine! This book is the only known complete record of my family history! I must have it!"

"NO!" the old monk exclaimed, "It is the last remaining relic of my monastery, and I have made a sacred vow that I shall return it to Ireland where it belongs. You cannot have it."

My Grandfather laughed, "Sorry old padre, but if you'll notice I have a gun and you do not, and I'm taking this book back to America with me." Then he walked to his jeep carrying the Book of Devine and returned to the base.

That night my Grandfather went to the tavern with his friends for a night of drinking, and as he walked there he kept thinking that he saw a shadowy figure behind him just out of view. When he got to the bar he saw a small shape slip in the door just behind him. Looking in the direction the figure went he recognized the old monk seated in the corner. There he sat and stared at my Grandfather from across the room the whole evening, making it difficult for my Grandfather to relax and enjoy himself. Finally at closing time my Grandfather went up to him demanding, "What are you doing here? Leave me alone!"

"Give me the Book of Devine." the old monk solemnly stated. My Grandfather refused and returned to the base.

The next morning, as my Grandfather left the base, a little down the road he saw a familiar figure standing by the side of the road. "Old man, this is a military installation! What are doing here?"

"You know why I am here." the old monk stated. "Give me the Book of Devine."

"Go away you old fool!" my Grandfather ordered. "Leave me alone!"

But every day for the next week, when he left in the morning and when he returned at night, there would stand the old monk. Whenever he went to the tavern, there the monk would appear sitting in the corner. Always when my Grandfather confronted him he would make the same, solemn demand.

"Give me the Book of Devine."

Soon it became time for my Grandfather to leave to return to America. As he left the base driving the jeep carrying him to the waiting plane, as always there was the monk waiting down the road, only this time he was standing in the middle of the street, blocking the way.

"Get out of the road, you idiot!" my Grandfather commanded. "Or I'll run you over!"

"Kill me if you must," the old monk replied, "for I prefer death to failing in my sacred duty before God to return the Book of Devine to Ireland."

My Grandfather could see that the monk was serious, and would not get out of the road. The resulting stand-off in which my Grandfather attempted to threaten and cajole the monk to move was both time consuming and futile. The delay soon threatened to cause my Grandfather to miss his plane, and he was anxious to return to his family in the Pine Point section of Springfield. Finally my Grandfather reached into his duffel bag and took out the ancient text and angrily hurled it at the feet of the old monk. "Take it and get the hell out of the way!"

The old monk snatched up the book, "Bless you my son!" he said as he quickly ran off and vanished from view. My Grandfather made it to his plane with only seconds to spare.

Is that story true? My Grandfather had the gift of blarney (that's Celtic for bullshit) so one can never be sure. But whenever he heard that anyone was returning for a visit to the old country, he would always tell that story and urge the traveler, "Keep an eye out for The Book of Devine!" No one has ever found it.

Returning to 2011, all it ever seems to do in this new year is snow. Here the usually congested King Street in downtown Northampton is left deserted by the weather.

Even media personalities like David Pakman had to dig his own car out from the snow.

The view out the window of Dunkin Donuts.

A few months ago I showed you this tasteless graffiti on a dumpster outside a UMass frat-house.

Since then someone has painted something more politically correct over it.

Filmed entirely at the Forbes Library in Amherst.

Sunrise on Springfield's Porter Lake by Burt Freedman.


Anonymous said...


I think that's a service number, not a social security number. Service numbers were replaced with social security numbers in about 1971.

The AF probably means Air Force. Was he in the Air Force?


Tom said...

Yes, my father was in the Air Force! My grandfather was in the Army. Thanks for the info on the numbers.